E-mail on the go. This organizational challenge has long perplexed mobile profession als in want of remote access to corporate e-mail wherever they are. Technical glitches, dialing in again and again, looking for hot spots and plugs have long been the major impediments to easy information exchange.
In came BlackBerry and the world just got smaller again. This RIM (Research in Motion) platform was launched in India with an exclusive tie-up with Bharti Tele-ventures less than two months ago, and it has already caught the eye of many professionals who survive on 24/7 deadlines. In these last two months, the demand for BlackBerry devices has shown impressive growth. According to Dr Jai Menon, corporate director, IT and technology, Bharti Tele-Ventures, “Over 200 corporates are now using the BlackBerry solution. These companies are from diverse sectors like FMCG, consulting, banking, etc. We are now in the process of tying up with some government agencies that want to use the Blackberry as a significant productivity enhancement tool”.
According to Don Morrison, chief operating officer at Research in Motion, ”BlackBerry is designed to provide mobile professionals with the best combined wireless email, data and phone experience. Its unique value has fuelled adoption in thousands of companies and government organizations throughout the world.” The current target audiences are the higher officials in government organizations and the senior management in corporates—CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, customer- or partner-facing professionals in multi-national corporations and government organizations.
BlackBerry provides its corporate customers with secure wireless access to a full suite of business applications, including phone, Internet, SMS, corporate organizer and the quintessential e-mail. Airtel’s customers get the flexibility of managing their e-mail on the go. Moreover the wireless service is designed to synchronize the changes between the customer’s desktop and the mobile device. Corporate data access is another benefit, which enables the BlackBerry with always-on access to additional corporate data and enterprise information.
According to Dr Menon, “With the launch of the BlackBerry, Airtel customers would be the first to access the advantages of push-based and always-on connectivity.” He adds, “Other than the traditional e-mail options (of read, compose, forward, reply, file and delete), the handset can be configured with the existing enterprise e-mail system.” Also, setting e-mail filters that monitor key words and message fields can control the messages received on the wireless handhold. E-mail attachments can be viewed in popular document formats like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Adobe PDF and ASCII text.
Airtel claims to have left other Indian competitors way back in the rat race. Competing products from Hutch require e-mails to be “pulled” by the user, whereas in Airtel’s email solution e-mails are “pushed” to the handheld. Thus the e-mail is received instantly on the handheld without any user intervention. According to an Airtel spokesperson, the Hutch solution in its latest version of 2003 supports only MS Exchange, whereas BlackBerry supports both MS Exchange and Lotus Domino.
The BlackBerry in India was launched after extensive work done by Airtel at the backend, both on the network and service ends of the chain. This included commissioning of dedicated international leased lines to service data traffic generated by BlackBerry handhelds in India.
With BlackBerry, mobile professionals stay connected under a very safe umbrella of internal and external security features and centralized administration. “Corporate security needs,” according to Dr Jai Menon “are well addressed by placing the BlackBerry enterprise Server (BES) behind the corporate firewall.” To make the entire complex telecom architecture secure, leased line network security backed by triple DES encryption standard are used to secure the information when it travels outside the customers network.
According to a study analyzing the RoI of a BlackBerry deployment, BlackBerry users clocked an average productivity gain of 54 minutes a day. Though the availability of BlackBerry is limited (it can be purchased in 13 cities), it can be used in all cities with Airtel’s (General Packet Radio Service) GPRS network, which is technically speaking, the entire Bharti network. Also, the tri-band roaming feature allows Airtel customers to roam in most of the major markets like US, UK, Canada and Singapore.
RIM in India has two licensing programs (BlackBerry Connect and BlackBerry Built-In) enabling devices by different manufacturers and working on different OS (Symbian, PalmSource and Microsoft) to take advantage of the technology. Many mobile device manufacturers such as Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, HTC, Motorola and Siemens are licensing the technology for their devices.
Customers, depending on their need for features, can choose from three handset models, the 7730, 7230 and 6230 models, with the first two being colored screen handsets. While the device costs range from Rs 18,990 to Rs 32,990, the cost of services oscillate between Rs 1,799-2,799 based on the usage and calling pattern.
Highlighting the effort made by Bharti in bringing BlackBerry to India, Dr Menon said, “The BlackBerry wireless solution consists of integrated hardware, software and service elements. It has been launched based on extensive technical infrastructure set up by Airtel. It includes commissioning of dedicated leased lines and installation of configured BlackBerry enterprise servers. The entire state-of-the-art service is backed by seamless integration of a fully redundant network. The BlackBerry is going to work in the maximum expanse, with all 18 Airtel mobile networks being GPRS ready.”
As volumes grow, the cost of these handsets is expected to go down, as happened with mobile phones. According to Dr Menon, “Worldwide BlackBerry customers have shown a rapid increase. There are over 1.6 mn BB subscribers and over 60 carrier partners globally. There was an increase of approximately 317,000 from May to August 2004. It shows a rapid pick up of BlackBerry in the global market and the increasing demand of the BlackBerry service. I am sure India too will exhibit a similar trend.”
Jasmine Kaur in New Delhi